Professor Venugopal Nair, Head of the Avian Viral Diseases Programme at Pirbright has been awarded an OBE by the Queen in this year’s New Year Honours. The honour has been bestowed on the leading avian virologist in recognition of his outstanding contributions to science in the field of avian disease research.
Professor Nair’s research is focused mainly on unravelling the molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, the process by which cancer cells are formed, and has made major contributions to our understanding of how avian oncogenic viruses induce tumours. He has published more than 120 scientific publications and several book chapters in this area and his contributions to avian disease research were also recognised through the Tom Newman Award by the British Poultry Council in 2002, and admittance to the World Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA) Hall of Honour in 2013.
Professor Nair moved to the UK in 1989 after studying veterinary science and virology in his home country of India. His scientific research career began at the Institute of Virology in Oxford where he worked as a post-doctoral research fellow. During his six-year tenure at Oxford, he investigated the molecular biology of flaviviruses important to human and veterinary medicine, including tick-borne encephalitis and louping ill viruses.
It was in 1994 that Professor Nair moved over to The Pirbright Institute (known then as The Institute for Animal Health) and his first position was working on avian oncogenic viruses within Dr Jim Payne’s group at the Institute’s Compton Laboratories in Berkshire. Following Dr Payne’s retirement, he became the Head of the Avian Oncogenic Virus group, carrying out extensive studies on Marek’s disease and avian leukosis virus. He moved to his current position as the Head of the Avian Viral Diseases Programme in 2010 and now oversees the Institute’s programme of research on avian virology and immunology.
A former Editor of Avian Pathology, Professor Nair is currently one of the Associate Editors of the 13th Edition of the Diseases of Poultry. He is the designated expert of the Office International des Epizooties Reference Centre on Marek’s disease and holds Visiting Professorships at Imperial College London and at the University of Liverpool, and is also Investigator at the Jenner Institute, Oxford.